Towards the end of Green Day's time at Abbey Road, Edge called up Richard Jobson to invite him over to the studio. It was Jobson, nearly three decades earlier, as a 17 year old member of Scottish post-punk band The Skids, who wrote 'The Saints Are Coming'. Our pictures (top left) show Richard with Stuart Adamson of The Skids in the late 1970's and, earlier this month, listening to the track in the studio.
As well as hanging out with the seven musicians and producer Rick Rubin, listening to their performance of his song and being photographed by Anton Corbijn, Jobson - and Edge - stepped out for a little chat with U2.Com.
To be honest, he was still pretty stunned at the strange turn of events - as we hinted
at in the second week of our Studio Diaries. He didn't actually believe it was Edge, when he first got a phone call asking about performing 'The Saints Are Coming':
'I thought it was one of my Irish mates winding me up, I really did!'
'It's true, he just wouldn't believe me,' adds Edge. 'I was saying, 'This is Edge from U2 and he was saying, 'yeah, yeah, yeah...'
But standing in Abbey Road, with both bands in the room, he just about believes it and here's what he had to say.
U2.Com: Edge has said that 'The Saints' had a resonance he was looking for when thinking about U2 and Green Day performing a song for the Louisiana Superdome re-opening.
RJ: It's about the death of someone's father, about how a young man, struggling to garner a sense of himself, loses someone who he doesn't feel he really knew. And it's about how he wants them back. It's the idea of phoning your father up and he doesn't answer the phone, you want him to speak to you and he's not going to come back... its just the utter sadness of that.
But there's also a lot of metaphors in the lyric which become incredibly pertinent to what Edge is doing with this track now... about these people not responding to a tragedy and also the metaphor of floods and people drowning, its incredible really, almost spooky!
Edge: That's why it rang true in my mind.
RJ: After the phone call with Edge I had to go and download the song because I hadn't heard it in such a long while and I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about. You know I was actually very emotional hearing it again after this time. The Skids were not a big band, just a small band, and I have occasionally been very dismissive of that group and yet the amazing thing - for me personally - of what U2 have done with Green Day is to capture the beauty and anger of the song and validate it, a really special thing. For me this puts The Skids in a whole new context.
U2.Com: Can you remember writing it?
RJ: I wrote 'The Saints Are Coming' between the age of 16 and 17, I think I had just turned 17, my birthday, and it was a very brave song in some ways. It dealt with raw emotion. We were young kids from a working class community in the east of Scotland where you were not supposed to show your emotion. I think we had a bit of a hard time, my lyrics were called pretentious and esoteric but I was just dressing up the metaphors - it was difficult to be so candid about your emotions in such a masculine, patriarchal society. You had to dress your songs up. The words are all hidden but they all have a tenderness I think.
For me the song was about anger and when I heard the way that U2 and Green Day have treated it, wow, that was the thing they did with it. I wondered if they might go for the more ethereal quality but they have got the anger and I think their version mixes both.
Edge: We really wanted to capture some of that venom.
RJ: Yes, the venom is there, this idea that you cry for help and no-one is going to get it to you, that is the key message... that's my take on the interpretation anyway.
U2.Com: Are you still surprised by this strange twist of musical fate ?
RJ: To be honest with you if you call me tomorrow I will be a gibbering wreck! I am absolutely aware of who U2 and Green Day are in rock'n'roll and that they are doing a song by this little known group from the east of Scotland written in 1978. This is a big question for me and I don't know the answer...except that it is a fucking wonderful thing!
U2.Com: What was it like hearing their version being played back just now ?
RJ: That was a very emotional moment because it is such an emotional song for me and so you have to bury that as you don't want to embarrass yourself. But I'm a U2 fan and have been since the early days and I love the fact that they are one of the only rock'n'roll bands - if not the only one - who have managed to evolve, to create new ideas, without ever blotting their copybook. My fourteen year old daughter is a fan of both bands and to be honest, to be in the studio in a photograph with them just now.. I felt like a fly buzzing around the cow's arse and I was waiting for the tail to swish me away! That's a very poor analogy but I really was waiting for the tail to swish me away!
U2.Com: The Skids broke up in 1982 but you knew U2's music very early on.
RJ: I saw them very early on but in those first years we never played with them. I followed their career and they always had that chemistry...but you know, hearing them just now, and being in that studio, I didn't have great nostalgia to be in a rock'n'roll band again. I have found what I do in film. Although it will be interesting to see with the release of this if there will be some kind of revision that goes on about The Skids....
Download the live version, and see the live performance of The Saints Are Coming by U2 and Green Day here
A studio version of the track is released
at the end of October.